Season 4, Episode 9 "String Theory"  

Air date:  5-17-05

Note Shawn Ryan's name on this week's screenplay. The boss cuts it all tight.  Everything in this episode goes to one story, the murdered cops Carl and Scooby  Even the Antwon Mitchell storyline gets tied in, with Antwon immediately considered the prime suspect.  

Cops missing gave everything urgency, and the discovery of their butchered bodies did not decrease the urgency.  Now the cops are distinctly on the defensive, and random thugs are helping themselves to potshots at passing police cars.   


Aceveda's good "Dr Jekyll" side came out tonight, thankfully.  It seems that nearly every single scene Aceveda's played this season has been something highly negative- vengeful, petty, power hungry.  Mr Hyde has been driving that train.

The disappearance of two of his old officers, however, brought out the genuinely best side of Aceveda.  He showed up just as a uni, trying to help out.  He was even very careful not to try to assert authority.  He was very tactful and positive in that one private moment of offering advice to Captain Rawling.  It was more like spiritual counseling than tactical advice, at that.

His scene on patrol with Danny works particularly nice for repeat viewings, with changing emotional impact.  It plays at first as simple drama:  Danny and Aceveda are driving and talking about Captain Rawling's policies.  BANG, BANG!  Sudden stop.  Examine the car.  They've got two bullet holes. Some random jerk's just took a couple of potshots at them.  

Watch it again, knowing what's coming, and listen to just what's being said.  As a critic of Rawling's poliicies, Aceveda was saying something like "Sometimes being on the street isn't the best perspective to understand..." And right there he's interrupted by the gunfire.  I don't know if it was the intended effect of the creators, but this scene looks funnier and funnier with each viewing.


The Shield does real well at making unique characters, and giving them motivation and memorable character in mere seconds of screen time.  There are several memorable new characters in this episode that probably don't have two minutes screentime apiece.

The cop killings were apparently accidentally set off by this silly slut named Lydia, who called 911 to report an attempted break in by her ex-boyfriend's son.  Carl and Scooby were responding to this call when they disappeared.

Thus, the cops were quite interested in interviewing Gideon, the big steroid pumped freak Lydia said was breaking down her door.  Turns out she was just making the story up to get his attention.  So it's a short, short story.  But Gideon makes a pretty strong impression in his aggressive steroid buzz.  His smirking suggestion that Dutch could use "a little juice" was particularly telling.

Best though, was Yancy.  This very young man was the street mayor of the block where the officers fell, and thus brought in for questioning.  For starters, young Master Yancy has an outer space Afro piled on his head that would make Marge Simpson green with envy.  

Plus, he turns out not to be the anti-social, anti-cop thug they might have expected.  The cop bodies had been dumped in a house that the police had seized weeks earlier.  Wasn't Yancy mad about the cops seizing this house in his neighborhood?  Nah,. Wasn't his house.  They were cooking meth, and the neighborhood's safer since the cops took the house.

The beauty part with Yancy though is when he has to give detective tips to the great detectives Dutch and Claudette.  They confronted him with this big, expensive necklace they'd found covered in blood in that sewer. It was young Yancy that had to point out the obvious:  Looking at the back of it, he suggested going to the jeweler who obviously hand made this to see whom they had made it for. Duh.


Often, the titles of Shield episodes reflect across multiple characters and storylines.  I'm not sure what it would mean in this case, except that it applies to crazy Roger, who had studied "string theory" in college before having some kind of schizophrenic disconnect that has left him an exceptionally brilliant crazy homeless guy.  He's a great character.

Roger wants to help, but he's so far out of his tree that he can't.  He's the only witness to the officers' abduction, so Dutch and Claudette are fairly desperate for any information.  Unraveling his disjointed crazy ramblings, it seems clear that he saw the abduction, but can't seem to get his mind around it enough to explain it.  It seems perhaps like a psychological defensive reaction of a very gentle person confronted with blunt brutality that they can't cope with.

Some of the best scenes of the show were Dutch patiently and sympathetically trying to coax out what the poor guy knows.  He got him a badge as requested, and put it on Roger.  The importance of this to the guy was touching.  We can readily feel and share his frustration.

Later, in the cage, Roger expresses his sympathy to the widow of "Marco Polo" as he referred to the Asian officer, Scooby.  He then tried again explaining, first that the officers deserved better than being "drug down" as they were.  Then he started mumbling the song "Clementine," about the miner 49er excavating away.


This led to Dutch putting the troops to searching again through the neighborhood where the officers disappeared.  Asked what they were looking for, Dutch suggested something involving "a geological anomaly in the earth's surface."  

This sounds like he'd spent just a little too much time with Crazy Roger, but it paid off.  Carl and Scooby had been forced, or more likely lured, down the manhole into the sewer, and killed there.  


They pretty well milked maximum grotesquery from the scene with Shane and Ronnie attempting to recover young Angie's body.  This involved them tipping over the port-a-potty under which she was believed to be buried.  This naturally ends up dumping the chunky contents all over the gravesite such that Shane has to literally dig through shit- to still not find her.

This was one of the best couple of scenes in the whole series for viscerally expressing the dirtiness of Vic's Strike Team boys.  The other top scene that comes to mind this way is the third season scene retrieving and disposing of the corpse of O'Brien, their unlucky mick patsy.



Captain Rawling may be a total hardass, but by way of compensation she's honest and above board.  She really is all about protecting and serving.

Tonight, however, was perhaps her worst (but still very marginal) ethical compromise: ordering up a goat.  She instructed Vic to look for some kind of "person of interest" so that they could tell the press that they had a suspect in custody for the cop killings.  "One unsympathetic asshole, coming right up!" was Vic's enthusiastic reply.

Being the lead detectives on this big case, it was incumbent on Dutch and Claudette to actually stand in front of the cameras and say something.  Claudette started to object, but the Captain cut her off, and she judged better than to push the point.

Naturally, Dutch ended up doing the talking.  There was the one sentence "I'm confident that we've got our man."  Other than that, he managed not to really say anything at all.  Hopefully, that would be enough to placate the public for a day or two. Dutch does good press conferences.


Two down  Who's next?

Those words spray painted on the front of a store combined with the crappy attitude the cops got when they showed up in mass looking for the artiste.  The combustion resulted in a little cop riot, kicking ass and busting stuff up at random.  Jebus Criminy, after busting in a glass door, they're out turning over newspaper vending machines.  

Obviously these cops were out of control, and doing bad things there.  However, with two dead brothers and several others shot at in the last 24 hours, anyone baiting or provoking them was pretty well begging for a beat down.

In any case, this was way the best action scene of the show.  Aceveda hurts himself flying into a fleeing perp.  Windows are smashed.  Boxes are overturned.  Ass is kicked.  The Constitution is used as butt-wipe.  Yee-haw!


Speaking of Constitutions and terlet paper, Vic shows great spontaneous creativity in improvising methods of physical abuse.  Tonight he turned over a big barrel full of glass bottles, breaking them all across the floor.  Then he pushed the suspect's chair over backwards, right into the broken glass. Ouch!


Julien had another interesting balancing act tonight.  Captain Rawling simply doesn't trust him, or want him around.  Thus, he is sent to babysit the wife of one of the missing cops.  Yet there he is, defending the captain and her policies to Carl's soon to be widow.





Antwon's quick take in the last scenes on the relationship between Vic and Shane seems especially meaningful- precisely because it was from such a negative place.  Antwon surely wasn't trying to make them feel better.  Disappointed that Shane hadn't killed Vic, as he had demanded:

Antwon: You're lucky your boy's got mad love for you.

Vic [smiling]: We're all about mad love.


The main bad blood on the old Strike Team is between Shane and Lem.  Being involved with the guy who killed his 14 year old juvenile didn't make it any better.  Add in the pure physical gruesomeness of the exhumation task.  All in all then, it was a pretty significant gesture of goodwill that Lem specifically volunteered to go help find young Angie's body.

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